With the temperature hovering around 12-degrees (F) and the winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour Dennis Watson was undeterred by the weather conditions and confidently reined Ally’s Delight to a 2:04.2 victory in the 13th edition  of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pace at Monticello Raceway on Tuesday afternoon, January22.


The annual event honors the legacy of the great civil rights leader and features the talents of African American drivers. It was also the first of eight legs in the Mighty M’s Heritage Drivers Series-2013.


For Watson, who traveled in from the Freehold, NJ area,  it marked his second victory in the Dr. King Paces.


“I’ve raced in nearly every one of the Dr. King races here but it’s been about five years since I won my first one and I was getting to wonder if I’d ever win another one,” Watson said with a smile in the winner’s circle after his victory. “They tell me it’s cold out here today but right now I can’t feel anything but delight.”


Watson’s initial victory in the Dr. King Paces came during January of 2008 when he guided BJ’s Jetstream home first in 2:00 which, by the way, is still the event’s fastest winning time.


When the race got underway and wings of the starting gate folded, James O’Farrow hustled Hannah’s Creek to the lead and they were quickly challenged by Majesty Hanover and driver Cedric Washington. But Washington, a three-time winner of the Dr. King Paces, got no respect as O’Farrow kept him parked-out until the nearly the  three quarters when Hannah’s Creek tired and packed it in.


It was at that point that Watson, who was cruising second -over behind Washington’s pacer, fanned  three-deep and zoomed to the front as the tightly bunched field passed the third stanza.


After aping Watson’s earlier moves, George Newell, Jr. with favored JK Diamondsnpearls now in second position, made a run at the leader but came up short and had to settle for second money. Third place went to 95-1 shot B Major, driven by Dennis Washington.


“Even though I couldn’t reach to foot rests on the bike we were hooked to when I turned and saw Georgie coming ( in the deep stretch) I knew he wasn’t going to beat me,” Watson added.     


The trophy and blanket presentation was made by General “Bubba” Washington, Jr., himself a Dr. King Pace winner in 2005. Although Bubba no longer drives his sons Cedric and Dennis represented “Pop’ in the race this year.


It was the first victory after 27 previous starts for Ally’s Delight. The 6 year old Bettor’s Delight mare is owned by Gus Lampo, Doug Layman and Harry Sinstack of Oneonta, NY and trained by Will Harmon. She paid $5.80- for win.


An minor unexpected problem arose when George Polk, Jr., who was programmed to drive Fly Italia, called the judges in the late morning and said that he was unable to make the race which left Monticello Raceway officials with a dilemma since there was no other African -American drivers waiting in the wings.


So in order not to scratch Polk’s horse and keep the race together the judges named Saratoga Raceway’s racing secretary,  Don Hoover to drive Fly Italia.


“It may have been a bit unusual to have a Caucasian drive in a race featuring African- American drivers but we had little choice,” noted track GM Shawn Wiles. “However, Dr. King’s legacy belongs to all Americans, no matter from what walk of life they come from.”